There are spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seasons 1, 2 and 3 here (especially 3). So, you should read this after you’ve watched all three seasons. You’ve been warned.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was risky when they introduced it. I wasn’t sure what legs it could find to stand on, but it’s been an endearing and surprising show that’s found its own very important niche in a universe full of superhero franchises. The first season season’s tie-in with Captain America: Winter Soldier was a shining beacon in a world of underwhelming television plot twists. It showed me a show that was willing to take the big risks and sacrifices that are required for a truly spectacular story. I’ll admit the show was waning on me before the appearance of Hive, but the latter half of the third season and the finale have shown me that this show is alive and kicking.
I’d like to go back to basics before I delve into some of the high points of this season and it’s ending. My biggest concern when this show first started was it would be “supplemental material” to the movie universe. That the stories would only be mildly interesting and the characters would be scraps that fell off the Avenger’s Hollywood floor, but I was very wrong. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has creating endearing characters like Fitz/Simmons, Skye, Lincoln, Yo-yo and Mac and also turned D-string villains like Mr. Hyde and Hive into oddly endearing characters in their own right. It avoids the spin-off show pitfall that Gotham fell into which has a feeling of why-isn’t-Batman-just-here-already and tells great stories about original characters.
I’ve revealed that I’m a big fan of the latter half of the third season, but let’s talk about the first half. I wasn’t a huge fan of the season three before Hive arrived. I could feel the show struggling to find a good place for Ward to feel relevant. He had been such a background menace for so long that it felt tired and just too easy to make him the villain yet again. I think that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at its best when it’s taking risks and the plotlines in the first half of the season just didn’t feel unique.
However, once Hive entered the fray I could feel the show jumpstart and redirect. I could feel what focus and an endgame forming that I wanted to see. With a death looming and Hive’s mind-control abilities the season found a spot that explored the Inhuman condition differently. I enjoy when sci-fi for its ability to take something so foreign, such as alien space bugs taking over people’s minds, and making it relate to real issues as they did with Lincoln’s alcoholism. Having these fantastical lens can shift your understanding of real issues and I appreciate a show that can deal with subject material like that maturely.
Another plot that I think the third season handled beautifully was the idea of destiny and belonging. There’s a beautiful synergy between the vision of someone’s death that Daisy is obsessed with and Inhuman’s belief that they are all made with a purpose. Once again, these mirrors in real life of faith and god’s plan shine in the reflection, and I appreciate seeing how that belief bounces through the different characters, especially Daisy (Skye) and Mac.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is held in my esteem significantly based on its ability to surprise even the writer in me. When Ward turned in the first season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I was intrigued at the balls of the move. They shaped the story as a love story between Skye and Ward and this just shattered my illusions of this show being so simple ever again. I love that. I love a show that surprises me. They did it again in season two with Jia’ying murdering Gonzales when he finally comes to speak peace and they continue to throw curve balls this season. The reveal of Daisy (Skye) being taken over by Hive as the double agent was artfully done and a big oh-no-you-didn’t moment for me, because I believed they wouldn’t do it to their main character. But this show goes there, and that’s why I love it. The proverbial “hot-potato” of the golden cross from Daisy’s vision also was done in a surprising and effective way. I’ve seen shows try to fake you out on a death and I’m fairly good at predicting them, but they didn’t make this one easy. They made a compelling case for Lincoln, Mac, May and Fitz to die. They all had huge impact behind their storylines and would make sense to go, but the last second twist was still shocking as Daisy was believed to be holding the cross until the very end.
Speaking of the finale, many shows have a hard time filling out the big shoes they lay for themselves. I think Supergirl fell into this trap where it was hard to feel how final the season finale was, but after a season of build up the passing of Hive and Lincoln was very satisfying and poetic. Daisy and Lincoln’s conversation was heartbreaking and cathartic and the view of Hive and Lincoln floating next to each other, accepting the end highlighted all the things I felt were unique to Hive as a villain. It wasn’t malice or pure, indescribable evil that drove him: he was logically and faithful to a particular view of the world. It was fitting that in the end he doesn’t try to control Lincoln and shares an envy for a connection that he never felt. A very human moment for a very bizarre and alien villain. And who didn’t appreciate them backing up and showing that same shot of Daisy’s vision just before the explosion?
This season, the latter half at least, saved the show for me. I was feeling disconnected and burnt out from the more tired strain of plotlines explored in the first half, and just when I thought this might be a show I should abandon—here’s looking at you Arrow—new life flowed into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a death loomed over its head. This show has spawned versions of its characters in the comics, which is a shocking reversal of the secondary material looping back and changing the source and that itself shows you the merits of what’s been made here. I give season three of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a 7.8, which sounds low only because I’m docking points from the first half of the season being a low point for me. However, I think overall I give Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. an 8.5, and it’s a must see for anyone who loves the Marvel Cinematic Universe and superhero shows in general.
P.S. (Season 4 Predictions)
So, the review is above but we also got some sweet teasers for what next season is going to look like. It looks to me like Daisy is now on the run, probably due to the Registration Act invoked from the Sokovia Accords. I think they will be using Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to flesh out the Civil War ground conflicts we couldn’t get in the movie, which sounds awesome to me. Especially now that Daisy has truly come into her powers and persona as Quake.
And in the second preview clip, we got with Holden Radcliffe played by John Hannah it looks to me like they will be borrowing from the Bride of Ultron and the Squadron Supreme LMD’s storylines. Though, of course, the merger is bound to make something fairly unique to the MCU and introduce further speculation on the rights of androids in this new age. We’ll see how these plots end up playing off each other. I’m really excited.
Clark Gregg, Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, and Iain De Caestecker: Stars